The Mavericks returned home and picked up a crucial win against North Dakota by a score of 69-63. The win puts Omaha back at .500 in conference play and was needed ahead a long road trip coming up later this month.
Omaha started off the game slow with three misses from the field and two turnovers. It was senior Kyle Luedtke that made the first basket for the Mavericks. JJ White followed up Luedtke’s basket with four quick points of his own giving Omaha an early lead of 8-4.
Turnovers would once again become a problem for Omaha. The Mavericks had back-to-back turnovers that would lead to a North Dakota breakaway dunk and a brutal three pointer. Head Coach Chris Crutchfield had seen enough and used his first timeout of the game with North Dakota up 20-12.
“Settle down, settle down,” said coach Crutchfield on what his message to the team was in the huddle. “We were doing some things that were really uncharacteristic to what we have been doing all year. We just needed to settle down.”
The Mavericks would respond to the early timeout by slashing the North Dakota lead down to only two by halftime. Omaha was able to cut down on their number of turnovers in the half. In the first 10 minutes the Mavericks turned it over six times, and they reduced that number to only three following Crutchfield’s timeout.
Omaha came out of the half and wasted no time to take the lead off of a Frankie Fidler three point shot. From there, Fidler would have a costly turnover that would turn into a North Dakota dunk and surrendered up the lead. The Mavericks would compound their mistakes by leaving UND shooters open, not crashing the glass on defense, and gave up a second chance basket that would extend the Fighting Hawks lead to 45-36.
The Mavericks would again have to respond to adversity and fight their way out of the deficit. Omaha would get that fight out of Frankie Fidler, who extended his double-digit scoring streak to seven games. Fidler would go on to carry the load for the Mavericks down the stretch.
“When he had the ball in his hands, he was able to get into creases, and able to get to the basket,” said coach Crutchfield on Fidler’s play in the second half. “He’s a smart player, he’s recognizing now what the defense is doing, and he’s able to counter it.”
Omaha would take the lead with just over 11 minutes to go in the contest, and that lead was one they did not let go of. The Mavericks received double digit scoring from three players and were led in scoring by Fidler with 17. Marquel Sutton would contribute 16 points, while JJ White added 10 points and four assists.
Next up for Omaha, they will play North Dakota State at Baxter Arena on Jan. 14. Following that game the Mavericks will have a road trip to South Dakota, first against South Dakota State on Jan. 19 and then South Dakota on Jan. 21.